Several key Whatcom County races were too close to call after the first ballot results were released about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday by the Whatcom County Auditor’s Office.
Candidates for three hotly contested seats in the 42nd Legislative District remained within a single percentage point of each other in traditionally conservative northern Whatcom County as a “blue wave” hoped to flip it into Democratic hands.
“It’s really close,” said Bellingham City Councilwoman Pinky Vargas, who was trailing Republican state Sen. Doug Ericksen by 50.4 percent to 49.6 percent.
“Democrats are always late voters, so I’m not worried,” Vargas said by phone from the Mount Baker Theatre in Bellingham, where Democratic Party figures were gathered.
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Republican state Rep. Luanne Van Werven, who was leading her Democratic challenger Justin Boneau by 50.7 percent to 49.3 percent for one of two 42nd District state House seats, said Tuesday night that she is confident of victory.
“It’s close, and we knew it was going to be a tight race,” she said by phone from the Mount Baker Rotary Building in Lynden, where Republicans were watching ballot returns.
“There’s still a lot of ballots to be counted,” Van Werven said.
Boneau said by phone that he’s proud of the campaign that he ran, and that he rejected corporate PAC money.
“I’m ecstatic,” Boneau said. “I did this on a people-powered campaign. We’re just waiting to see how the rest of the vote breaks.”
About 61,000 votes had been counted when results were posted Tuesday night, according to the Whatcom County Auditor’s Office.
An updated count was due late Wednesday afternoon.
For the other state House seat in the 42nd District, Republican state Rep. Vincent Buys was trailing Democratic challenger Sharon Shewmake by 50.1 percent to 49.9 percent.
“I’m feeling pretty positive,” Buys said by phone Tuesday night.
“We’re not where we’d hoped to be on election night, but I don’t think we have anything to regret,” the four-term incumbent said.
Shewmake credited her strong early showing to hard work and door-to-door campaigning.
“People are really excited,” Shewmake said by phone. “We’ve got an amazing team and we had a lot of grass-roots support.”
In addition, Carol Frazey, who was endorsed by local Democrats, was leading Mike Peetoom, who was backed by Republicans, by 58 percent to 42 percent in the non-partisan race for a one-year at-large seat on the Whatcom County Council.
“I’m pretty excited,” Frazey said by phone from the Mount Baker Theatre. “We had a strong volunteer team and strong Democratic support. I’m excited to be representing all of Whatcom County.”
Democrats campaigned heavily this election season across the 42nd District, which includes neighborhoods of north Bellingham and rural Whatcom County generally north of Lake Whatcom.
It’s been represented in Olympia by all Republicans since Buys ousted Democratic Rep. Kelli Linville in the 2010 midterms.
But in the Aug. 7 primary this year, total Democratic votes exceeded those for Ericksen, Van Werven and Buys — suggesting that the district could be vulnerable.
Control of the state Legislature could be at stake, with the Democrats holding a 50-48 majority in the House and a 25-24 lead in the Senate.
In other state, federal and local races:
▪ Bellingham voters were approving Proposition 2018-5, a property tax levy to fund low-income housing, by 66 percent to 34 percent.
▪ U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell was leading her Republican challenger Susan Hutchison by 59 percent to 41 percent.
▪ U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene was leading her GOP challenger Jeffrey Beeler by 59 percent to 41 percent in the 1st District U.S. House race, which covers parts of Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish and King counties.
▪ U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen was leading Libertarian Party candidate Brian Luke by 72.5 percent to 27.5 percent in the 2nd District congressional race, which covers San Juan and Island counties and parts of Whatcom, Skagit and Snohomish counties.
▪ Democrat Debra Lekanoff was leading Republican Michael Petrish by 72 percent to 28 percent for one of two House seats in the 40th Legislative District, which covers San Juan County and parts of Whatcom and Skagit counties.
▪ Democratic Rep. Jeff Morris was unopposed for the other 40th District House seat.
Voter turnout was high for a midterm election, Whatcom County Auditor Debbie Adelstein said in a phone interview last week.
A total of 143,112 voters were registered in Whatcom County, up from 139,813 registered voters in the Aug. 7 primary.
Some 95,318 ballots had been returned through 8 p.m. Tuesday and more were expected by mail and in ballot boxes in Washington’s mail-only election.
Only 76,123 ballots were cast in the 2014 midterms.